Kepner: As a species, the knuckleball flutters but survives

From Tyler Kepner at the New York Times on February 21, 2016:

Phil Niekro was a 21-year-old pitcher in Class A when his manager, Red Murff, gave him a compliment that propelled him to the Hall of Fame. If Niekro could control his knuckleball just a little better, Murff said, he would pitch in the big leagues.

That was in 1960. Niekro would pitch through 1987 and earn 318 victories.

“That’s what really got me going, and that’s what I’m trying to convince Eddie Gamboa,” Niekro said by telephone on Sunday. “It’s not a second or third pitch. It’s your pitch. Everything comes off your knuckleball, and he hasn’t gotten to that yet, I don’t think.”

Gamboa, 31, is a nonroster invitee of the Tampa Bay Rays who showed up Sunday at Charlotte Sports Park for the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. He wears No. 73, befitting someone with no major league experience. Sort of.

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Originally published: February 22, 2016. Last Updated: February 22, 2016.